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Bishkek Court Rules Former Kyrgyz President Atambaev Committed Libel

Former President Almazbek Atambaev
Former President Almazbek Atambaev

BISHKEK -- A court in Bishkek has ordered Kyrgyzstan's former president, Almazbek Atambaev, to pay financial compensation to three former officials who accused him of insulting their dignity and honor.

The Oktyabr District Court ruled on February 28 that Atambaev must make separate payments of 100,000 soms, or about $1,450 each, to former public officials Azimbek Beknazarov, Keneshbek Duishebaev, and Akmatbek Keldibekov.

The court also ordered Aprel-TV to "retract" statements made by Atambaev during a December 10 interview aired by the private television channel. The court did not specify how the television channel should retract Atambaev's remarks.

Keldibekov formerly was Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary speaker while Duishebaev headed the State Committee for National Security, and Beknazarov formerly was Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general.

The three filed the lawsuit against Atambaev and the television channel in December, demanding 18 million soms ($260,000) from Atambaev and Aprel-TV director Dmitry Lozhnikov for what they described as "disseminating false information."

In the interview, Atambaev accused Keldibekov, Duishebaev, and Beknazarov of looking for political opportunities to enrich themselves.

They filed the lawsuit amid growing signs of tension between Atambaev and Kyrgyzstan's current president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Limited to a single six-year term by the constitution, Atambaev tapped his prime minister, Jeenbekov, as his favored successor in Kyrgyzstan's October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have had a public falling out and have criticized each other in recent months. Meanwhile, several associates of Atambaev have been arrested on corruption charges.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament on December 13 approved legislation to eliminate immunity from prosecution for former presidents -- potentially opening the path for charges against Atambaev.

Also in December, some members of Kyrgyzstan's ruling Social Democratic Party (SDPK), which Atambaev heads and of which Jeenbekov is a member, launched a campaign dubbed "SDPK Without Atambaev."

Kyrgyz lawmakers and other politicians have been calling for an investigation into some decisions made by Atambaev while he was in office.